89th American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting

Monday, 12 January 2009
Not so lost in translation: bringing science to decision-makers through the Carolinas Coastal Climate Outreach Initiative
Hall 5 (Phoenix Convention Center)
Jessica C. Whitehead, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium/North Carolina Sea Grant, Charleston, SC; and R. H. Bacon, J. F. Thigpen, G. Carbone, and K. Dow
The South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, a state agency, and the North Carolina Sea Grant, a university-based program, exist as part of the NOAA National Sea Grant College Program to help urban and rural communities conserve coastal and marine resources and enhance economic opportunities through research, education, and extension. Sea Grant Extension Programs link university researchers with individuals, businesses, and governments, and extension agents are vital to translating science to society through these links. Extension agents assist community decision-makers on coastal issues through informal education and technology transfer. These community-based agents serve as important translators of scientific information for a variety of coastal decision-makers, including (but by no means limited to) those involved in the tourism and fishing industries, planning, water management, and government. By maintaining relationships with the Sea Grant universities, extension agents are able to help communities interpret scientific information and make it useful for improving the local quality of life.

Extension efforts in North and South Carolina focus on aquaculture and marine fisheries, coastal processes, hazards, environmental quality, coastal communities, business and economics. However, because interannual climate variability and climate change have major impacts along the Carolina coast, these extension programs also recognized the need to address the climate factor. In 2006, the SC and NC Sea Grants formed a formal partnership with the Carolinas Integrated Sciences and Assessment (CISA) at the University of South Carolina to address this need through the NOAA-funded Carolinas Coastal Climate Outreach Initiative (CCCOI). This paper describes the CCCOI model for bringing climate information to a range of coastal stakeholders.

The four main objectives of the CCCOI are to:

1. Develop the capacity of NC/SC Sea Grant to inform and educate coastal decision makers of the implications of climate variability and change for major coastal issues including erosion, invasive species, land use change, salt-water intrusion, health of fisheries, agriculture, tourism, coastal community development, and natural hazards.

2. Provide tailored, decision relevant information on the implications of climate variability and change to coastal decision makers from residents to government officials to business people.

3. Increase the capacity of the Sea Grant network regionally and nationally to research and deliver outreach programs on the impacts of climate variability and change for coastal stakeholders.

4. Evaluate and review increases in SG climate education and outreach capacity and approaches.

As part of accomplishing these objectives, the CCCOI established a new position for a jointly sponsored regional climate extension specialist (CES). The CES identifies coastal Carolina decision-makers' needs for climate information, and then works with CISA and the NC/SC Sea Grants to deliver that information to the community. As the link between science and society, the CES both conducts outreach activities and contributes to CISA climate-related research.

CCCOI is an ongoing program, but the CES is already having an impact. Sea Grant extension staff are learning more about climate change issues in the Carolinas and how to incorporate that information into their relationships with stakeholders. The CES is participating in CISA research on future impacts of climate change and sea level rise on salt-water intrusion in the Yadkin-Pee Dee basin. With the assistance of an advisory committee, new work plans are extending the variety of extension programming on climate change and facilitating its use by coastal stakeholders. As a result, the CCCOI is well on its way to ensuring that scientific climate information is not lost in translation on its way to society.

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